Which to learn first, pinyin or word recognition?

Firstly, we need to understand that learning pinyin (Chinese phonetic alphabet) is not learning to recognize Chinese words. Pinyin is recording pronunciation. Using pinyin to improve literacy and reading creates an additional obstacle that often frustrates children when they can’t master it. This may cause young learners to shun learning and reading all together. Just put yourself in a child’s shoes.  A Standard 1 student needs to learn as many as 8 subjects in school.  Learning Mandarin alone requires them to master Hanyu Pinyin, recognize words, form phrases, make sentences and write essays.  Juggling between these learning tasks causes a huge amount of stress in children.

Chinese words are pictographic writing. So it is actually easier for young learners to recognize words than learning phonetic alphabet. Children aged 3 to 7 are very receptive to images and colours as they use the right brain more often during this period. Transforming Chinese words into image helps children to learn reading faster. Using the right hemisphere of the brain, children can easily relate images with words. This approach allows them to grasp the pronunciation of Chinese characters easily and quickly.

When a child is able to master 1,500 Chinese words before entering primary school, he or she need not spend much of his/her time and energy learning words during the first 3 years of primary school. More time and efforts can be put into learning other subjects or even reading.

A child who has higher literacy will not find learning burdensome compared to children with low literacy, thus giving the child a significant advantage. While other children are still busy learning to recognize words, the child is already reading a book and immersing in the wonderful world of knowledge! The more the child reads, the better his or her comprehension skills. With increasing learning speeds, his or her self-confidence grows too.

In other words, literacy plays a key role in determining a child’s academic achievement in Standard 1 till Standard 3. His or her academic results in Standard 4 and 5 are further determined by how much the child is able to read. Therefore, first thing first, high literacy before primary education is the key success factor.

Learning is a lifelong journey. Seize the moment and give your child a head start now!

Is your child’s literacy up to standard? 

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